This week, Bwog’s always enthusiastic sports editor Max Rettig interviews Kira Ullman, the captain of the Columbia women’s rugby team, about what it’s like playing one of the most notoriously violent sports around.
Bwog: Can you explain rugby?
Kira: So it’s similar to football in many ways, but there are a few key differences; you can only pass the ball backwards, play doesn’t stop when someone is tackled, and we only have mouth guards.
B: Wait, what?!?! You only have mouth guards?
K: Yea, but the idea is that because we don’t have the protective gear that football players have, rugby players are more cautious with hits. There are still some pretty huge hits, though.
B: In some sports that cater to both men and women, like baseball compared to softball, the women’s sport is often more, should I say, delicate. Is there a difference in men’s and women’s rugby?
K: Nope! Rugby is the exact same for both men and women, as opposed to lacrosse, for example, where the men’s game is much more violent.
B: What’s life on the team like?
K: We practice twice a week and play every weekend. We don’t travel too far for road games. I’ve played in several sports, including softball at Columbia for a season, and so far rugby has been the best experience.
B: How does the team, as a club sport, fund itself?
K: We get some money from Columbia, but mostly we raise through bake sales and other forms of fundraising. We also have an alumni newsletter, but our team is on the younger side, so we’re hoping to grow an alumni base that gives back to the team in the future.
B: On to you. What’s your position, and what’s your role within that position?
K: So I play inside center, and mostly I’m trying to help score points. Everyone on the team has a different skill set that is best for their position, and everyone has a role to play. It’s very much a team sport.
B: How do you score?
K: So if football has touchdowns, we have “Try”s, worth five points. We also have a point-after, but ours is worth two points instead of football’s one. Unlike in football, it matters where we touch the ball in rugby. We have to physically touch the ball to the ground, and we kick from where we touched the ball down. So ideally, we score in the center, but that doesn’t always happen.
B: What’s your crowning moment on the field? Your worst experience?
K: I enjoy getting my teammates in the game. I love nothing more than seeing a teammate who has never scored get a try on a pass from me. My most embarrassing moment(s) would have to be the time where my pants got pulled down during a tackle, and also when I tripped over myself in the middle of the field.
B: How do you view your role as captain? Do you work as a direct leader, alongside the coach, or are you more of a pep-rally kind of captain?
K: So every captain is different in terms of style. I personally see myself as someone who both leads by example, setting the work ethic for the team, and by communication, keeping my teammates up.
B: Any jokes you can make about rugby?
K: Every team has at least one hooker. We’re also a pretty vulgar bunch, as displayed by these drinking songs.
B: What’s the scrum?
K: So eight people from both teams line up in a particular formation and push against each other to try to gain possession of the ball, which is on the ground somewhere. It’s kind of like tug-of-war, but with pushing.
B: Lastly, teams like Harvard and Brown recruit, giving them an undeniable competitive advantage. Is this a direction you think the Columbia team can, and should, go?
K: So Brown and Harvard are actually in the works of becoming varsity teams. As a team, we are moving in that direction, to be able to compete on that level, but are not quite there yet. Rugby as a sport is gaining a lot of ground, though; it will make its Olympic debut in 2016, so that’s really cool to see.
Where’s the ball? via CUWRFC